Average Job Salaries: Know before You Apply

Average job salaries, can be difficult to pin down. The need to have a good idea of your baseline salary is becoming more necessary, particularly in the New Economy, and it's advisable to do your homework before applying for a job, let alone mentioning a figure to an employer.

Terminology in salary descriptions

There's a lot of jargon in the description of salaries when you're researching your average salary:

  • Market rate: The employment market average for a type of position
  • Salary bandwidth: A salary range in a job type.
  • Market average: The market average salary is usually in the middle of the statistical bandwidth, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the average salary for you, particularly if you're an experienced, qualified person. It may be above or below your starting rate.
  • Package: Salary plus benefits. Calculating the real value of a package requires you to have a good idea of your average salary. 

Factors in determining your average salary

There are several basic factors affecting salary ranges:

  • Qualifications
  • Certifications
  • Licenses
  • Experience
  • Expertise

Qualifications, certifications, and licenses are all verifiable benchmarks for salary calculations. Experience may be qualified by the appropriateness of the experience to the job, or your work history. Expertise relates to personal achievements in your profession, the value of your work.

Finding your average salary

There are a lot of ways of checking your average salary and comparing it to other estimates:

Online sites 

There are many sites online which provide estimates of average salaries. They're reasonably accurate for the employment market, but they won't necessarily tell you what your salary expectations should be. Some official sites, like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are good starting points for getting representative figures for your profession.

Professional associations 

These are usually very reliable sources of information, particularly if you're in a well defined professional area, with standardized grades of qualifications denoting positions.  However- Salaries in many areas are highly variable, and a guesstimate is about as close as they can get. Use their information as a guideline only in non base grade salary ranges. 

Job ads

Salary quotes in job ads can vary a lot, but generally they're within a reliable bandwidth for jobs of the same basic type. You'll need to make a comparison regarding the duties of these jobs, to be sure they're a reasonable match with the jobs you want, but they will give you an idea of the market rate. 

Professional jobs

A professional job ad may quote "100-120K", which tells you nothing about what your salary would be if you got the job. The criteria for the job, if they're a good match with your own, would make that bandwidth credible, but it's best to check, because others may be getting significantly higher salaries. Consider figures like that benchmarks, but not the last word in salary calculations.  

Check with colleagues and your professional contacts. You need some quality control on your information to get a clear picture. Professional salaries can vary immensely between employers, and in the business field, these salaries are often negotiable.